(Reuters) - After a season straight out of the fevered imagination of a movie scriptwriter, Leicester City manager Claudio Ranieri is asking his men to seal their “once in a lifetime” Premier League triumph on Sunday with a Hollywood flourish at Old Trafford.
At the storied home of Manchester United, fittingly also known as “The Theatre of Dreams”, unsung Leicester, whose story has captured a nation’s imagination, will lift their first-ever top flight title with a win.
“Now is the real chance to win the title. Once in the life,” said a smiling Ranieri, who knows that three points in their three remaining games would be enough but that winning at one of football’s great cathedrals would make it story book perfect.
“It is important for us to make a perfect game. The best away performance of the season, we have to do,” he added.
“It is important to finish the story like an American movie. Always in the final it is okay. Happy ending!”
Coming to a point when only a collapse of heartbreaking proportions can cost the Foxes the title, Ranieri hardly sounded like a man under pressure as he joked with journalists who had come from all over the world to Leicester to hear his comical pearls of wisdom.
Suggesting that he could rotate his entire squad for Sunday’s game just to live up to his name as ‘the Tinkerman’, he laughed that he wanted stadiums around the country to ring out to the sounds of the favourite catch phrase he uses to exhort his players.
“Now I’m waiting for all the stadiums to say ‘dilly ding dilly dong!’ Why not?” the popular Italian said beaming.
Before the bells ring out for Leicester’s triumph, though, he accepted there was much hard work to do, especially with fifth-placed United still sniffing Champions League qualification.
Ranieri knows that a whole city, and almost the whole of the nation, is willing his team on and he reckons it has been an emotional business.
“I have felt a lot of emotion. People are waiting for us on the street and the supermarket and at the training ground. They say ‘thank you for what you are doing’,” said Ranieri, who had seen the east Midlands city transformed by a riot of blue on Friday’s ‘Foxes’ Day’.
“It’s not difficult to understand this. It’s easy to understand. For the first time in their life the people can win the title, the Premier League. It’s unbelievable. It’s history and we know this.
“It is good we are doing something special. And of course I am very proud for everybody in Leicester, for our community. Internet, web, media, there is a good feeling about this story.”
Yet he reckoned he could feel relaxed because his players had looked so impressive and well-prepared in training for their big moment this week.
“I see my players train well, enjoy, fight, run to help each other. I am a sporting man. In sport, you might not know what happens, but you can prepare everything well.
“I feel it is very important to be concentrated 100 percent. I don’t tell my players to stay calm. I say ‘Stay hungry’.”
With no Jamie Vardy in the squad through suspension, Ranieri was asked what changes he might make for the United game.
It prompted a familiar cheeky grin. “I have a lot of choice. I have 24 players. Maybe I’ll change them all!” he said with a laugh. “The Tinkerman never changes!”
Only come Sunday night, he may no longer be known as the Tinkerman but the Miracle-man.
Reporting by Ian Chadband, editing by Pritha Sarkar